By Rev. M Barclay
When I was a kiddo, one of my best friends lived just next door. We spent a lot of time together and their house was a second home for me. But there were still some understood boundaries.
We knew not to ring doorbells too early.
(but weren’t sure exactly what too early was)
We knew not to ring doorbells too late.
(but weren’t sure exactly what too late was)
And we knew on holidays it may not be appropriate to ring doorbells.
(but there was a chance that maybe we could play…at the right unknown time.)
In hopes of being respectful but also communicating availability and desire to play, we had an unspoken system. In the road between our houses stood a basketball hoop. The sound of the ball bouncing, ricocheting off the backboard, the very occasional “swoosh,” all functioned as a message.
Come out and play! If you can.
Come out and play! If you do, you don’t have to worry, I’m already here.
Come out and play! If you can’t, I understand.
It was a pretty foolproof system. There was no way to answer the sound of the ball beating against the ground wrongly. It was just an assurance and an invitation when/if it was desired.
Today is national coming out day – a day filled with complications and celebrations for those who are queer and/or trans. Especially in these times. Collectively, we celebrate our communities and all the gifts we bring and experience. But the day itself is also a testimony to the precarity of our lives. Coming out it always a risk. (And so is not coming out). Our families, friends, careers, faith communities, housing situations, access to health care and more are all affected by our processes of coming out. Depending on additional factors like our race or ability or class or gender, each of these are made more challenging.
I confess I don’t love when I see people who are not queer or trans using coming out language for themselves. It’s an experience fraught with losses particular to our communities and its painful when its significance is trivialized or appropriated.
There’s also sacred wisdom to be gained in bearing witness to queer and trans people coming out: That revealing and claiming a part of self that is shamed by dominant powers. That taking the risk of significant loss for the sake of a deep gain. That choosing to disclose what has been silenced. That finding belonging among misfits. That celebrating what cuts against the grain.
It’s all tied to that whole “losing one’s life in order to save it” thing.
There are significant questions of identity and community and risk and vulnerability and collective power before all of us. And most of the important questions have uncertain answers. There are real considerations to weigh. But when we are teetering on the edges of a decision to move towards risk for the sake of something brave, or life-giving, or more just, or more collectively-minded, God enfleshes in those who have gone before us. If we are listening for it, we will find they are always already offering their invitation for us to come and join. Like a dear friend, bouncing a ball in the near distance, waiting with desire and anticipation and respectful consideration. Each *thump* an expression of a holy calling.
Come out and play!
we need you.
if you’re worried, know that we’re already here.
you won’t be alone.
if you can’t yet, we understand.
but we’ll ask again soon.
Rev. M Barclay is a United Methodist deacon serving as Director of enfleshed. M formerly served as Director of Communications at Reconciling Ministries Network, advocating for queer and trans justice in The UMC. They have also enjoyed working as a hospital chaplain, youth director, justice associate and faith coordinator for reproductive justice in Texas. As a queer and trans minister, M is passionate about writing, teaching, and preaching on finding the Sacred in the people, places, and ideas we might otherwise overlook.